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A Goy Who Speaks YiddishChristians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany$
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Aya Elyada

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804781930

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804781930.001.0001

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Introduction: Between Hebrew and German: The Depictions of Yiddish in Christian Writings

Introduction: Between Hebrew and German: The Depictions of Yiddish in Christian Writings

Chapter:
(p.125) Introduction: Between Hebrew and German: The Depictions of Yiddish in Christian Writings
Source:
A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804781930.003.0012

The body of philological knowledge produced by Christian scholars on the Yiddish language and Yiddish literature was conceived as an effective medium for exercising control over the Jews, for conducting missionary work for them, and for promoting Christian theology. However, Christians' preoccupation with Yiddish also allowed them to participate in a broader discourse on Jews and Judaism that was taking place in early modern Germany, one which expressed—and supported—the asymmetrical power relations between Christians and Jews. Two central themes in the early modern Christian literature on Yiddish focused on the relation between Yiddish and German, and one hand, and between Yiddish and Hebrew, on the other. Christian authors formulated their criticism on Yiddish in linguistic categories, but their attitude toward the Jewish language can be linked to the broader cultural and social concerns of the time, including the attempts of German scholars to cultivate and purify the German language. Moreover, Christian scholars addressed the state of the Hebrew language among Yiddish-speaking Jews, a discourse that also involved notions of culture and ethnicity.

Keywords:   Yiddish language, Jews, Christians, Yiddish literature, German language, Jewish language, Hebrew language, Judaism, Christian literature, Germany

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